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Major tour operators are hoping there will be more demand next year for tours to the United States to watch baseball following Ichiro Suzuki’s record-breaking performance this season.

“We are hoping it will stir demand for tours to go and watch baseball games next season,” an official of a major travel agent said after Ichiro set a single-season major league hits record Friday when he increased his season total to 259. The Seattle Mariners’ right-fielder extended his record to 260 hits Saturday.

JTB Corp. has been organizing tours to see baseball games in the U.S. ever since Ichiro joined the Mariners in 2001.

JTB’s sales target for U.S. baseball tours this year was 8,000 tourists, 3,000 more than the actual figure for last year. JTB did not organize any special tours this year to see Mariner games as it was difficult to predict when Ichiro would break the record, JTB officials said.

Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. has seen the number of its U.S. baseball tours top that of last year by around 20 percent, company officials said.

“There is a possibility that tourists will increase next year with Japanese players having great performances,” Eiko Sato, a spokeswoman at Kinki Nippon Tourist, said.

Meanwhile, major sporting goods maker Mizuno Corp., which has been selling Ichiro-model bats and gloves, said its goods are selling according to plan. Ichiro uses Mizuno equipment.

“Among Japanese major leaguers, the top two popular models are Ichiro and Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees,” a Mizuno official said.

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